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Waking life

Jeff Finlin's view of the world isn't peachy keen, but it certainly makes for a good listen

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Cmon! Smile for the picture, Jeff! Someone might - actually see this!
  • Cmon! Smile for the picture, Jeff! Someone might actually see this!

Three-and-a-half years ago, Jeff Finlin gave up on Nashville.

Or, maybe more accurately, Finlin, a Cleveland-born singer-songwriter who had spent 20 years striving for success in Tennessee's music mecca, grew tired of Nashville giving up on him.

"It didn't turn out the way I thought it would," he says over the phone from his present home of Fort Collins. "I bought into the whole thing of being successful and famous, and I had formulated certain ideas of what that is. And, of course, they were all wrong."

Finlin's words, always, come off as knowing and, if not pessimistic, then with a healthy dose of glass-half-empty realism. It's at once endearing and alarming, that he seems aware of an impending doom.

This sense haunts Finlin's music, too. On his albums, he comes across as a Tom Waits/Bob Dylan hybrid, mixed with a dash of The Hold Steady's Craig Finn. His songs, which are never too dark, but never too cheery, either, deal with the elusiveness of happiness and the feeling of being lost in the world.

It's an interesting dynamic, but with Finlin as the listener's guide, it comes off as a near-perfect depiction of the world. His world, at least.

For the past 25 years or so, by his best estimate, Finlin, a former drummer, has been trying to make it big as a singer-songwriter. And though he's been praised by the American and British press alike for his Americana pop, he has only tasted modest success the high point coming when, in 2005, filmmaker Cameron Crowe placed Finlin's song "Sugar Blue" on the soundtrack for his music-centric identity-crisis movie, Elizabethtown.

Though the inclusion of the song resulted in what Finlin matter-of-factly calls "a great year," it only went so far. Some new fans climbed upon Finlin's bandwagon, but that was about it.

And that's kind of the story of Finlin's music life. For most of his career, he has reached for goals that weren't necessarily attainable. After all, in today's musical climate, singer-songwriters are rarely crowned as rock stars. Now, Finlin knows this.

"You think that if you achieve this certain thing, it's going to validate you on some level," he says. "And that's not really true. You still wake up every morning and make your coffee and your breakfast."

With this new understanding of the world, Finlin began searching for a new home. Colorado, with its open spaces and slower pace of life, seemed to make sense. In a region like this, Finlin says, people better understand music's place in the world.

"[Here] it's just another form of entertainment," he says. "I kind of like that. In Nashville, where everything is kind of put up on a pedestal, you kind of come to the resolution that you're somebody kind of special with what you do. We [musicians] are really no better than a carpenter or a plumber, you know?"

It's almost sad to hear a man talk about his dreams like this. But for Finlin, music stardom seems to have lost its luster and sheen.

And oddly enough, he's sounds pretty happy about that.

"I've beaten my head against the wall for a lot of years," he says. "And I'm pretty content with the way things turned out, actually."

pete@csindy.com

Jeff Finlin

Jimbo's Take 2,

2427 N. Union Blvd.

Saturday, Oct. 6, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $12, all ages; for more information, visit jimbostake2.com or call 244-1601.

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